Capital One Cup could herald new dawn for Klopp’s Liverpool

liverpool city celebration

Jurgen Klopp takes Liverpool to the first of what he and the Reds fans hope will be many cup finals when, on Sunday, the German contests the Capital One Cup final against Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini. Klopp has had a rude awakening to some of English football’s peculiarities, but one he should avoid going along with is the ease with which the League Cup is often dismissed.

A trophy is a trophy, and with Liverpool not in the running for the league title, they’re not in a position to turn their noses up at any silverware, and there appears to be a real appetite for claiming a ninth League Cup. But more than that, the League Cup can and has been the catalyst for greater success down the road, a way of instilling a winning mentality into a squad that isn’t necessarily used to landing trophies.

So it was in 2005, when Jose Mourinho, early in his first posting at Chelsea, took the Blues to victory in the same competition. Liverpool were, ironically, the opposition, Chelsea winning 3-2 after extra time in Cardiff in what was perhaps Mateja Kezman’s only notable accomplishment during his time at Stamford Bridge. Kezman scored the winner in the 112th minute, John Arne Riise having opened the scoring in the first minute. A Steven Gerrard own goal in the 79th took the game to extra time and Didier Drogba put Chelsea in front in the 107th. Antonio Nunez equalised before Kezman’s decisive effort.

Liverpool did go on to claim the Champions League that same year, but it wasn’t the start of a period of domination – just a one of a few cups claimed in the decade or more since. Chelsea, rather, developed that crucial winning feeling. The league title arrived a few months later and a second followed the very next season. Four FA Cup between 2007 and 2012, another League Cup in 2007, the Champions League in 2012 and the Europa League a year later – in all, from the 2005 League Cup win, Chelsea have 15 trophies to their name, Liverpool three.

Chelsea are the current League Cup holders, beating Tottenham Hotspur a year ago, a few months before winning the league. “Back in 2004 and 2005 [winning the League Cup] inspired us and kicked us on,” John Terry said after the 2015 success, adding: “It is the start of something.” Mourinho’s implosion arrested that version of Chelsea’s development but the point made by Terry, front and centre for every Chelsea success in the past 11 years, still stands. Having beaten City convincingly earlier in the season, the League Cup could be the start of something for Klopp’s Liverpool.

Is the Capital One Cup now Manchester City’s to lose?

Manuel-Pellegrini-700x325

Everything is going swimmingly for Manchester City in the Capital One Cup this campaign, with the Sky Blues having recently booked their place in the quarter-finals of the competition with a 5-1 win against Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium. They were boosted by the news of fierce rivals Manchester United’s being eliminated on penalties to add to Chelsea and Arsenal’s exit on Tuesday evening.

With Liverpool the next highest ranking side left in the Capital One Cup this season, Manchester City will surely fancy their chances of going all the way again like they did in 2014. Manager Manuel Pellegrini claimed his first piece of silverware for his new club with victory over Sunderland at Wembley, before his side captured the Premier League title, and he will eye a repeat given the competition.

A win against their quarter-final opponents Hull City – of the Championship – will see the Sky Blues just 180 minutes from a final at Wembley. Everton and Southampton are the next strongest teams after Liverpool, and the duo are certainly beatable for Manchester City in their current form. Pellegrini’s men struck five against the Eagles, adding to the four they put past Sunderland in the previous round.

In the Premier League, City have scored 11 in their last three, and their manager was true to his word when promising an attacking display at the Etihad this week. Pellegrini was criticised following a goalless draw against rivals Manchester United, where it had appeared the Chilean seemed content with a point, but there could be no criticism of their performance this evening. It’s not the first time City have delivered such a crushing blow, and it won’t be the last this season.

The Capital One Cup has been gaining in popularity over recent years, with the likes of Chelsea having faced Tottenham in last season’s final, as well as Manchester City gunning for silverware in 2014. The top Premier League sides have been taking the competition very seriously, and with there being so few games before you get to the semi-finals it’s not hard to see why so many like it.

City have beaten Sunderland and Crystal Palace, and are now just 90 minutes away from a two-legged semi-final outing. And considering how there never fails to be an upset each seasons, a deep run in the Capital One Cup will be helped with less competition. This season, Manchester City look the most convincing due to the nature of their wins in the cup, but can they go all the way in 2015/16?

Tottenham’s Capital One Cup final defeat highlights deficiencies in attack

Tottenham Hotspur suffered a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup final, but came away from the game feeling hard done by. The Lilywhites put in a great performance against their London rivals, but just didn’t have the required quality in the final third. As a result, manager Mauricio Pochettino is expected to make amends in the summer.

The likes of Andros Townsend, Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela struggled to make a real impact against the Premier League leaders, creating only three chances between them. This season, Tottenham’s trio of creative attacking-midfielders have had their moments of quality, but have also put in a number of questionable showings when the side have needed them the most.

Against Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, Tottenham had only two shots on target. Better finishing, decision-making, and ultimately more creativity to make clear-cut chances would have seen them threaten an upset.

Tottenham are on course to finish the season in a Europa League place, but they failed to make it past the last-32 of the competition this season, so changes certainly need to be made in the right areas. Against Chelsea, the defence were disciplined, organised, and stuck to their roles on the pitch. In attack, however, Spurs were disjointed, and struggled making the right decisions.

Despite the season now being in the business end, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino still isn’t convinced on his strongest starting eleven, especially in the attacking areas. Chadli and Townsend have been in and out of the side all through the campaign, and didn’t make too much of an impact in the final against Chelsea.

The Londoners have often relied on the individual brilliance of Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane to get results this season, but their struggles against Chelsea highlighted just how much they were lacking in attack. Spurs have the funds for new recruits, providing they can offload expendable talent in the squad.

Tottenham’s problems in the final third have been an issue all through the season, however, with the Lilywhites averaging just 1.56 goals-per-game in the Premier League. If not for Kane, Tottenham’s alternative options (Emmanuel Adebayor & Roberto Soldado) just haven’t shown thy can take the mantel.

If Tottenham are to achieve their dream of trophy success, Pochettino certainly needs to strengthen his attacking options, as the squad is bereft of creativity. They have spent a lot of money in the past, but such players have failed to live up to the grade, so major work is needed in the summer.